In news you definitely don’t want to hear heading into the weekend, having one or two boozy beverages a day can increase stroke risk, according to a new study.
Despite previous research suggesting moderate drinking may have a protective effect, new research dismisses these claims, suggesting quite the contrary.
Consuming just a couple of drinks per day could boost the risk of a stroke by as much as 15% compared to people who abstain, according to the study published in The Lancet journal.
More than 160,000 men and women in China were analysed for the study, by researchers from Oxford University, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. The group were asked about their alcohol intake and followed up for 10 years.
Genetic variation in East Asian populations means some people are less tolerant to alcohol, finding it causes an unpleasant flushing reaction. They are therefore predisposed to drink less.
However other factors such as educational background and levels of physical activity do not differ across these different genetic groups. This allowed scientists to compare the risk of stroke in population groups with different alcohol intakes, but with other similar risk factors.
They found that, among men, genetics that decreased alcohol intake also reduced blood pressure and stroke risk.
Alcohol increases the risk of having a stroke by around a third (35%) for every four additional drinks consumed per day, compared to non-drinkers, the study found. Moderate drinkers, consuming one or two drinks per day, were at a 10-15% higher risk.
Professor Zhengming Chen, from the University of Oxford, said: “There are no protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke. Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke.” He added that the findings for heart attack were less clear-cut, so more evidence is needed.
The authors believe the findings apply to both men and women, and to populations across the world.
Dr Kate Holmes, assistant director of research at the Stroke Association said the study helps to “bust the myth” that moderate drinking reduces your risk of having a stroke.
Alcohol not only increases blood pressure but can also cause weight gain, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and liver damage.
“Our advice is always to try and find ways to cut down on your drinking,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Alcohol Information Partnership said: “We encourage people to be able to make sensible, well-informed decisions about drinking based on evidence and their own circumstances.
“Drinking in the UK has been falling for more than a decade and most people drink within the new lower government guideline [no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women].”